June 4, 2015 | Quote

One Year On, Palestinian “Unity” Government That Ended Peace Talks is Still Divided

None of the issues that last year’s Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement were supposed to address have been solved, according to a policy brief written yesterday by Grant Rumley, a research analyst for the Foundation of Defense of Democracies. The decision of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to join a unity government with the Gaza-based terror group Hamas was one of several actions he took that undermined the American-sponsored peace talks with Israel last year.

“The surprise reconciliation announcement effectively ended the peace talks that Washington had mediated for nine months with little progress. Having run out of diplomatic patience, Palestinian officials stated their new goals were to focus on ending the division between the two parties, holding new presidential and parliamentary elections, and resolving the crisis of unpaid civil servants in Gaza. To date, none of these goals have been accomplished.

The election issue is a sensitive one for Fatah. The last parliamentary elections, in 2006, brought Hamas’s unexpected victory, which set the stage for the next year’s brief Palestinian civil war, during which Hamas overran the Gaza Strip. Hamas still believes it is the rightful ruler of the Palestinians after the 2006 vote. The Islamist faction was recently heartened by its surprise victory in student elections at Birzeit University – a prominent West Bank institution long considered a Fatah stronghold – suggesting that Hamas could win another national election. But polls in Gaza routinely show Fatah and Hamas as neck and neck. For now, both sides seem content with merely demanding elections in the near future and then blaming the other side when those elections fail to happen.

The issue of civil servants in Gaza remains a major problem, too. After the 2007 split, the Fatah-led [Palestinian Authority, or PA,] ordered its civil servants in the Strip to stay home in an attempt to hamper the Hamas-run government. In response, Hamas hired its own cadre of civil servants to fill the gap. However, Hamas has had trouble making payroll. The region’s upheavals have strained Hamas’s relationship with its financial patrons, notably Iran. Indeed, one of Hamas’s motivations for signing the reconciliation agreement last year was to lighten the financial load of paying those employees’ salaries. With the PA refusing to ease the burden, Hamas employees continue to experience long droughts without pay.”


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Palestinian Politics